Two centenarians in Finley

By Daniel Hughes

Two centenaries were celebrated in two days at Finley, with Eileen Oates and Stella Mitchell reaching the significant milestone on Sunday and Monday respectively.

The women have led vastly different lives, but now find commonality as residents at Finley Regional Care.

Celebrations were held for each of the women at the weekend, with friends and family travelling to share in the festivities.

Eileen was born in Jamestown, South Australia on November 10, 1919, the ninth of 10 children for Martin and Margaret O’Dea.

Daughter Margaret Oates said her mother was a dedicated teacher, who was also heavily involved in sporting pursuits wherever she lived.

‘‘Mum trained as a primary school teacher at Adelaide Teacher’s College before being posted to a small school in Winkie, near Berri.

‘‘It was a steep learning curve as she taught 50 children across four classes.

‘‘After she married my father in 1945 she relinquished her teaching position, as was the norm those days.

‘‘She was extremely busy with home duties, community activities and, most importantly, raising four daughters.

‘‘In 1972, after the youngest daughter left home, my mother returned to teaching. She taught at the Finley State School for 12 months and then at the Finley Catholic School for five years.

‘‘She loved teaching the younger children who were always so shy when they commenced school.

‘‘She played tennis and basketball when she was young and later took up golf.

‘‘Her greatest claim to fame in golf was a hole in one on the Finley golf course, and she was an associate president of the Finley Golf Club and won an A Grade Ladies Championship as well.

‘‘Mum’s interest in tennis continued with not only encouraging her own children to play but also working with others to organise tennis camps for children during school holidays.

‘‘She enjoys watching AFL and other sports and supports Collingwood, but also sometimes North Melbourne.’’

The Oates’ came to Finley in 1957, and farmed at ‘Gort’ on the South Coree Road.
They retired into town in 1980.

‘‘My mother was a passionate gardener. She established lovely gardens at ‘Gort’ and then at her home in Coree Street,’’ Margaret said.

‘‘She is a very intelligent and capable person. She has been a wonderful home maker, is strong, determined and smart.

‘‘She still maintains her interest in politics, current affairs and social issues.

‘‘All of her daughters — myself, Tricia, Jenny and Maureen — five grandchildren including one who came from New York, and five great grandchildren were in Finley to celebrate this milestone.

‘‘Also joining us were many of my mother’s nephews and nieces from South Australia, Queensland and Canberra and local and interstate family friends.

‘‘It is a wonderful milestone and we are very proud of our mother.’’

Stella Mitchell was born on November 11, 1919 at Raichur, India, and was one of 10 children.

Her father worked on the railway so she spent her early years living in various Indian Railway Colonies, and then herself went to work on the railway at Kharagpur.

She later became a teacher in Mirage, India, and taught some of her own family, including her niece Yolanda Shedden who was in Finley for her aunty’s birthday party at the weekend.

After marrying Earnest Joseph in the early 1960s and welcoming one son, Edward, the family migrated to Australia.

Earnest was an Anglican vicar and so the family lived in many Australian towns before settling in Finley in the early 1970s.

Ten years later Stella’s husband passed away, and in 2012 her son also passed.

‘‘She is a very prayerful and God-fearing woman and has coped with her grief very well, making the best of life in aged care and not wanting to leave Finley,’’ Yolanda said.

‘‘Stella was a very popular young woman and a very social, fun-loving person. She loved dancing and enjoyed playing bowls, tennis and badminton.

‘‘Her nearest kin are myself and my children in Victoria and New South Wales and we visit her as often as possible. She also has relatives in Perth and abroad.

‘‘My children enjoy all the stories she tells them of my mother and of me.

‘‘She has a very good sense of humour and loves to sing and hums all the time.

‘‘Seventeen members of my family were in Finley to celebrate with a nice Indian lunch, which she really looked forward to.’’